First date with the real me
How a blind date can change your life
A quick look at the antique clock on my bedside table shows me I'm late. Late late.
I take another sip of my second glass of Merlot and assess my reflection in the mirror. A little black dress that hugs my curves perfectly (translation, getting air in will be problematic), ankle boots too high for my chronic clumsiness (but absolutely gorgeous), red lips, big hazel eyes accentuated with black eye-liner. Despite the dress being too tight for comfort, it's the only thing that felt remotely sexy at the moment. And you always need a bit of sexy for a blind date, as dating is no picnic.
Downing the glass for a much-needed confidence boost, I grab my purse and leather jacket, desperately searching for an Uber. Luckily, in 2 minutes I'm sailing through town, on my way to another Mr. Right. At least the wine finally hit my system, making me blessedly mellow. Seriously, what would my life be without a nice glass of Merlot? Boring, isolated, anxiety-ridden. That's no way to live. Fortunately, it's a moot point, because the Prohibition is long gone.
20 minutes later, I step out of the car and stagger a tiny bit (the heels, surely). Now, who was I meeting tonight? My friend (and self-appointed dating guru) Angela decided this will be the year she'll see me blissfully married, so she's been introducing me to an interesting selection of guys these past weeks. A surgeon with a lazy eye and wavering hands, a body-builder with zero conversation skills but much bravado, a successful chef with a penchant for hand-feeding his dates... It's been quite a ride, without a foolproof dating manual at hand; or such a thing as a perfect date. It all depends on the individuals involved, on their hopes and dreams, on their uniqueness. But spending another New Year's Eve toasting with myself doesn't sound so appealing now that I've reached 30, nor does attending another wedding alone (the horror!). So, I plaster a perfunctory smile on my face and enter a cute French bistro, mildly hopeful about this new date; strangely, I still can't remember a thing about him, apart from Angela's whispered encouragement from last night, promising this date will change my life forever.
Stepping inside, I'm greeted by the maitre'd, who promptly whisks me to a private booth, leaving me in front of a paneled door of white oak. The strangest feeling washes over me, like a befuddling case of deja-vu, but not quite. Odd.
Before I lose the nerve to do so, I square my shoulders and rearrange my smile, pushing the door open.
The booth is surprisingly bright, illuminated by dozens of golden lanterns which bask the small room in a fairytale glow. A beautifully arranged table sits in the middle, while in the far corner a comfy-looking sofa faces a window with a picturesque view. I blink rapidly a few times, utterly confused. Not only does my hometown lack a majestic waterfall, but the booth is enclosed in the middle of the restaurant, making a view of any kind impossible. Oh, God, I'd sure use a glass of anything at this point. The gentle buzz has already faded and all that's left is anxiety at this strangeness.
In my perplexed state, I fail to notice there is someone else here with me. Duh, my date had already arrived, considering my clothing debacle. His back is turned, allowing me to stare shamelessly at his slim built. Narrow hips encased in snug jeans, a checkered shirt rolled up to his elbows and a sexy man-bun. What can I say, I'm partial to them. Hmm, so far so good. Relax, just relax, you can do this. It’s just another date.
Hope burgeoning in my chest, I open my mouth to say "Hello", when he turns lazily to me, making my neurons implode.
It's like looking in a mirror. Hazel eyes, red lips, a nose slightly too big, and, of course, not he but she. She... me, what the f***?! Speech is beyond me, so I just stare stupidly at this being who shares my face but not my sense of style. Converse on a date, for a woman?
"Hey, Ana! It's so good to see you! Here, have a seat on the couch."
"Come on, don't be shy," my mysterious twin beckons with an easy smile. "I know that you're beyond curious, so why don't you just join me?"
Of course, I am, damn it! At a loss, I quickly scan the contents of the table, in search of something to drink. But no such luck, so I have to resort to other calming techniques. Breathe in and breathe out. For crying out loud, this dress is ludicrous. Nonetheless, I'm feeling slightly better. Now focus. There must be a logical explanation for this insanity and the only way to find out is to let it run its course.
Very slowly, I make my way to the couch, never letting the curious being out of my sights.
"Great! I promise everything will make sense in a bit, just the way you like it. Here, have some water first."
Water?! What I am, a toddler? I don't want to shatter my silent stance just yet, so I keep my mouth shut and reach for the glass. For a second, our fingers graze, sending a bolt of awareness up my spine. What is going on?
"Well then, we should probably get on with it, don't you agree?" Not waiting for an answer (smart girl, my twin), she carries on. "I realize this is majorly weird for you, but please have patience and hear me out. Look at it as some trippy movie, you love those."
"I don't just look like you, but am you. There's only one, fundamental, difference between us: I'm sober."
What the heck is that supposed to mean? It's not like I'm the town drunk, staggering home every night on wobbly knees. Her outlandish declaration almost breaks my silence, but not quite.
"Ludicrous, right? Not really, though. I'm Ana that has overcome the need to have even one "innocent" sip. Not as an anesthetic, a confidence booster, or a cheering-up gimmick. Not one drop."
This is really getting bonkers. Curiosity be damned, I'm not gonna stay here and be insulted by a self-righteous apparition. Sensing my churning mood, "Sober Ana" pats my hand gingerly.
"Please, don't go just yet. I know that you're not a drunk, but a wonderful human being. You're smart and funny, kind and loyal, and of course, beyond pretty!" Her wink goes over my head, so she quickly continues. "I'll ask you three questions and I want you to think about the answers long and hard. Just give this a chance. Please."
Her candid demeanor makes a small crack in my armor, and I feel myself give a reluctant, tiny nod.
"How many of your friendships were real and how many of those were drinking buddies, fun to spend a night clubbing, and gone the next day?"
Unbidden, flashes of random people pop in my mind, spinning rapidly. I struggle to make sense of it all, but the images disappear as quickly as they came. Unbalanced, I look up to my “date” and see her smiling kindly, a knowing glint in her eyes. Without further ado, she fires up the next question.
"If you took alcohol out of your social gatherings in the past, how fun were they really? What added value did they bring to your life?
Ask yourself this: if you can’t see yourself talking to a certain person without drinking something, is that someone worth your time?”
Slightly shaken, I try to think about it but fail to see the purpose. Can’t socializing be casual fun, without fundamental questions thrown in there? Just a harmless distr…
"Alcohol can serve as a great distraction, taking your mind off something unpleasant. But is it the right way? If you just gather dirt under the mat and never air it out, will your house and by extension, you, ever be truly clean?"
Wait, what? How in the world did she know what I was thinking? Because it can’t have been a coincidence. All of a sudden, I feel like my head is full of cotton balls, my synapses shooting blank. Fortunately, she continues yet again.
"Let me go first and offer you my two cents,” she says while rising from the couch and strolling around the room.
“Alcohol is not medicine. You don't down a glass the same way you take a pill to cure a pestering headache. Alcohol is a filter between you and the world, coloring your view in tinted hues. And in turn, others' perspectives of you. It's a self-erected barrier that buries your inner being deep inside.”
Spookily, her words trigger new images in my mind.
“You drink to forget, you drink to have fun, you drink to unwind, you drink to make yourself something other than you are. It's all a big, fat illusion.”
“Don't get me wrong, alcohol is not anathema. A glass of sweet Merlot will not corrupt you, just like a few sips of celebratory champagne can be just innocent fun. The problem arises with excess. To put it bluntly, like in any other things, excess is bad. Yeah, yeah, you've heard that already. Father loves this saying, after all. It's so familiar that it became quaint and obsolete but doesn't make it untrue. Just think about it."
Holy Moses! She's eloquent, I'll give her that. But puzzlement soon gives way to anger. Who does she think she is, giving me this long-winded and unsolicited speech? Crossing my legs, I finally confront this goody-two-shoes replica of mine.
"So, you're me, only sober, right? When did you get oh, so wise? And what do you think you’re going to accomplish here?"
In an ironic contrast with my churning emotions, “Sober Ana” is the picture of serenity, regarding me with absolute patience.
"Dearest, take a good look at me and tell me when you were so relaxed, so at ease with yourself. Natural and comfortable, without the use of a sip. Me, right here, is the real you. It's what you can be every moment of every day. You owe it to yourself to reach deep and pull to the surface the person you were always destined to be. Stop living in a virtual reality that will end up spitting you out, battered, and bruised. Forge your true path. Right NOW!"
Ears pounding, blinding lighting erupts around me, and then there’s blackness.
I wake up disoriented, straining to reach my “sober” twin, needing to reason with her, to... something. Of course, I want to be the best version of myself possible, the true me, but how? However, the bistro with its golden hues is gone. In its place stands my normal-looking bedroom, with light filtering through the drapes. It was all a dream? Stifling a laugh, I stretch and raise. All this fuss for a dream? A dream date, hilarious. Walking on silent feet, I notice an open bottle of wine on the nightstand, probably from last night. Next to it, a small glass of lowly water.
Water. Hmm, for the first time in a long while, I don't feel like drinking. What would my dream date/twin have to say about this? Water. Slowly but surely, I reach for the glass and watch the tiny particles of H2O, mesmerized. Me, right here, is the real you. What the heck? Water it is.
Dear reader, thank you very much for reading my version of a dream date. I hope it inspires you in some small way :) Hearts, tips and shares are always appreciated, but are not my priority here.